Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sapling's Cloud Computing Choice

Sapling Learning, and indeed much of the Internet, has been greatly affected by the current failures within the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2). We are very troubled by the outage and the issues that it is creating for professors and students that use our site. We at Sapling wanted to share with you what the Amazon "cloud" is and why Sapling chose to host our site within Amazon's EC2 services.

Amazon EC2 is a cloud web service that provides resizable computing capacity, and allows companies to easily configure their web services in response to load. This easy scalability, combined with Amazon's proven uptime record, is why many prominent businesses, including Netflix, Eli Lilly, Autodesk, Ericsson, Yelp, PBS, and ShareThis, have migrated their Web sites and software to EC2. NASA uses Amazon's servers to process telemetry data from the Mars rovers. Amazon EC2 Service Level Agreement guarantees an Annual Uptime Percentage of 99.95%, and has performed well beyond this measure. 

In 2010, at the same time as Netflix, Sapling began moving our Web hosting to Amazon EC2. Stability and scalability were our main reasons for doing so. Until this month, Sapling was very proud of our 99.99% uptime. To put this in perspective, in 2009 Gmail had only a 99.90% reliability rate, with its stated goal to reach 99.99%. In March 2010, Twitter had 99.74% uptime. Up until today, we have been very happy with our decision, especially considering that our previous hosting company has been down at least two times since we moved to Amazon EC2, and we had not had any issues.

Unfortunately, Sapling and many other technology companies are affected by the current EC2 failure. These include leading Internet companies with millions of users such as Foursquare, Reddit, Hootsuite, and Quora, and because of the pervasive nature of this outage across the Internet, the Amazon failure has been prominently featured in the national news.

We are currently working parallel paths to resolve the solution, one of these will assure restoration of Sapling's site for tomorrow's classes in case Amazon is not able to get its cloud services issues fixed before then. Once we are back up and running, we will then begin to implement a strategy that will guard against even this unprecedented cloud downtime. 

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  1. Will assignment due dates automatically become extended once Sapling comes back online? Or will instructors have to extend the due dates manually?

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  2. We will extend all affected due dates unless instructors have specifically told us not to do so. It may take some time for us to do so, so don't get TOO worried if it doesn't happen within the first few minutes of us coming back up.

    We apologize again for the confusion.

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  3. Will it be up sometime today?

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  4. We expect it to be up soon. We're updating information here: http://blog.saplinglearning.com/2011/04/update-on-site-availability.html

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